Thursday, December 25, 2008

Batman is an asshole

Okay, everybody loves the fucking guy. Not me.
Look, here’s some damn BILLIONAIRE playboy, who arrives at parties with multiple women on his arm, like some goddamn pharaoh, who slips into a set of Kevlar long underwear and runs around tackling “evil.” Well, the last time I checked, the only people that billionaires thought were truly evil were the poor, the rebellious and the undisciplined. Oh, yeah, and democracy.
But everybody says that The Dark Knight is art. It’s “soo complex and dark”, they say. And Heath Ledger (RIP) is stunning in it, isn’t he? Wow, what acting.
First, Heath Ledger was great in Brokeback Mountain. He managed to capture the complexity of a gay cowboy, forced to live a lie and struggle to find dignity within it. The movie was too long for my tastes (a habit of the director’s, I’ve noticed) but it was sublime nonetheless.
But the character Ledger plays, the Joker, has no character arc whatsoever. He runs around acting crazy, killing people and spouting ridiculous grade-school philosophy. He learns nothing and doesn’t change an iota. No, he is simply a cipher for some gushingly liberal point – people are good at heart. All this nonsense about what a great role he made it is reminiscent of Paris Hilton’s fame. She’s done nothing to warrant fame – in fact, as far as I can tell she’s utterly without skills or talent – but she’s famous for being famous. Everybody says it was a great role and thus it becomes in the common mind a great role.
The same goes for the raspy voiced Batman – dude, somebody give Christian Bale a Hall’s willya? I will give him this: he at least has some variety in his performance, from the suave and conflicted billionaire, Bruce Wayne, to the principled but violently animalistic superhero, Batman.
So, why did all the reviewers cream their jeans for The Dark Knight? Because it had pretension to be art, generated through a self-fulfilling marketing campaign. And because it had a stupid, liberal message to it – but one that could appeal to conservatives too.
That message? We mustn’t let the enemies of civilization bring us down to their level. Yup, profound, isn’t it? Here we have the Joker, who wants to destroy civilization (read: America) for no discernibly rational reason. Gee, I can’t imagine why anyone would have a bone to pick with the US of A (cough, cough, Chile. Cough, cough, Iraq. Cough, cough, Afghanistan, Central America, Cuba, etc). The Joker is, in reality, the personification of blowback made incomprehensible. He is depoliticized crime – and we all know that crime is bad, a threat to civilization, etc. And he is a terrorist. Have you got the picture yet? Those guys who blew up the Twin Towers – they were the Joker. They were trying to destroy civilization because they hate our values – not because of anything we’ve ever done to anyone in the Middle East (just as an example that popped into my head).
And Batman? Batman is what we would like to do. He is, as Commissioner Gordon informs us in the final scene, “the hero we deserve but not the hero we need.” Batman is arbitrary, violent power. He will stop the Joker, but his methods are a threat to us all.
So, yes, we’ll whip him out every once in a while – in fact, that’s what the Joker is hoping (presumably because he has a death wish as well as a desire to undermine society’s values) – but we really shouldn’t. And we should spurn the principle that Batman represents. Not because that principle isn’t effective but because of the abstract liberal values that society needs to keep functioning – accountability, rule of law, arbitration. In other words, we need to use Batman, but we need to pretend we abhor his methods – you know, like extraordinary rendition, torture, assassinations, etc. That Batman’s methods are the only effective means to defeat evil (read: terrorists) is reinforced by the fact that the crime-fighting DA, Harvey Dent, is destroyed both morally and physically by the terrorist. Batman, the counter-terrorist, is incorruptible.
Batman is the War on Terror. He is the principle of class justice – that is, the ruling class against the anarchic masses – the foreigners and African-Americans who make up the mobs in the film, the freaks, the mentally unstable.
So, like I said, Batman is an asshole and somebody oughta stop this guy, expropriate his fucking property, jail his colonialist butler and nationalize Wayne industries.
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